Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

For a title that grabs a reader’s attention, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen wins hands down.  My creative nonfiction professor recommended the book and the title stuck in my head.  When I saw the book a few months ago, I added it to my bookshelf.

Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo is Mark Leiren-Young’s account of the ten months he spent as a reporter in Williams Lake, BC, just after graduating from the University of Victoria in the early 80s.  From the opening story of a bomb-rigged defendant in a Williams Lake courtroom to the title story about stampede queens to the closing stories of unionizing a small-town newspaper, Mark kept me wanting more.

As Peter C. Newman says, “His portrait of small-town BC is a mixture of Leacock (the wry humour and evocative literary style) and Freud (psychoanalyzing the rural psyches of his cast of kooky characters).  It’s a must-read, and fun too.”  Though I haven’t read any of Newman’s books, his endorsement of Mark’s book caught my attention.  Newman is one of Canada’s great journalists, the author of 22 best-selling books and former editor of the Toronto Star and MacLean’s.

One of the things we talked about in my creative nonfiction classes is the life experience required to write it—it is, after all, nonfiction.  Mark’s time in the Cariboo certainly gave him ample fodder for these stories and prove that life is often stranger than fiction.  But Mark puts the stories together with the right amount of humour and suspense to make this book read like a novel—full of fascinating characters and a forward momentum that makes it hard to put down.

I also appreciated Mark’s portrait of small-town Canada.  As Stephen Leacock says in the opening of Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town, “if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it.”  Williams Lake definitely has its own character, which Mark brings alive, but it also has a lot in common with other small towns across Canada, which Mark also manages to portray.

Mark recently released his second comic memoir, Free Magic Secrets Revealed.  He has written a variety of dramas and stage plays, including an adaptation of Never Shoot a Stampede Queen for a Canadian theatre company.  As a journalist, he’s written for a variety of Canadian newspapers and magazines as well as TIME and MacLean’s.  He’s also written two nonfiction books about the environment and has directed and produced a feature film.  For more about Mark and his work, check out his website.

Overall, Mark’s book is a fun work of Canadian creative nonfiction that I’m pleased to recommend.

~Bonnie Way’s writing has been published in a variety of parenting and writing publications as well as online. She is a book reviewer for several publishers and the editor of FellowScript, a quarterly writer’s magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s busy as a mom and wife.

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5 Responses to Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

  1. Heidi C. says:

    I usually enjoy reading Nonfiction from Canada as I like learning about various aspects of our beautiful country! I think I would enjoy this!

  2. Really glad you enjoyed the book and really appreciate you spreading the word. All the best with your own creative non-fiction writing!

  3. Anne Taylor says:

    Sounds like a great book to read! I live just down the street from UVic so I’m feeling very proud of the author lol

    thanks for the review!

  4. Elva Roberts says:

    June 29–‘Never Shoot a Stampede Queen’ sounds like a really good book for Summer reading. Thank you for telling us about this book and its author. I will be on the lookout for it. el03ro

  5. Amanda Frank says:

    Sounds like a great book, thanks for the review! You should check out “One American Woman Fifty Italian Men” by Lynne Ashdown. I’m reading it right now as a recommendation from a friend of mine. It’s great so far. Thanks for the post and for the suggestion!

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